I've been to Margaritaville's cruise, hotel, and RV resorts — now I see why the fun Jimmy Buffett branding has made it such a popular hospitality company

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A close up of a Margaritaville branded cruise sailing near land.

Margaritaville
  • Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville has become a hospitality empire with hotels, a cruise line, and RV resorts.
  • I visited four Margaritaville properties and saw how its consistent branding has driven it to success.
  • Every property evoked the laid-back Buffett lifestyle with amenities named after his lyrics.

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Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville has become a hospitality empire.

The logo of a reception area of a Camp Margaritaville.

A Camp Margaritaville. Margaritaville

And after visiting four of its properties, I now understand why: The company has perfected its highly consistent Buffett "lifestyle" branding.

Camp Margaritaville Pigeon Forge

Brittany Chang/Insider

And travelers can't get enough of it.

RVs parked at Camp Margaritaville Pigeon Forge

Brittany Chang/Insider

Over the last few years, Margaritaville has been diversifying its real estate portfolio beyond what traditional hotel companies have done.

Two RVs with flags parked at Camp Margaritaville.

Brittany Chang/Insider

What was once a simple song that turned into a collection of restaurants, bars, and hotels …

peopel walking on a boardwalk with the Margaritaville restaurant in the distance

A Margaritaville restaurant in Florida. Andriy Blokhin/Shutterstock

Over the last two years, I visited two of its RV resorts in Florida and Tennessee, a hotel in New York City, and its cruise ship sailing out of Florida.

Camp Margaritaville Pigeon Forge hotel room

Brittany Chang/Insider

But no matter the concept and location, by land or by sea, I've noticed Margaritaville's properties are highly consistent.

Camp Margaritaville Pigeon Forge

Brittany Chang/Insider

Jimmy Buffett's hit "Margaritaville" song — which inspired this subsequent empire — shows listeners what life could be like while relaxing in a slow, warm weathered destination.

Lounge chairs surrounding a fire pit in front of a roof with a thatched pattern.

Brittany Chang/Insider

And this laidback "lifestyle" is the same feeling the Margaritaville company has successfully recreated across its roughly 40 hotels, 70 restaurants and bars, and four RV resorts, among its other areas.

outside patio of the 5 O’Clock Somewhere bar

The outside patio of the 5 O’Clock Somewhere bar. Brittany Chang/Insider

Source: Margaritaville , Margaritaville , Margaritaville

Travelers know exactly what to expect when they step into a Margaritaville property: the feeling of being at a kitschy beachside resort.

Beach chairs under a thatched lounge area.

Brittany Chang/Insider

It's a world where "parrotheads," as Buffett fans affectionately call themselves, can rejoice in the tropical, laidback way of life Buffett often croons about.

A song and dance show in a theater.

Brittany Chang/Insider

And while I didn't grow up listening to his music, I do understand why this undeniably fun branding has been so appealing to travelers.

A bar under a wooden and thatched roof.

Brittany Chang/Insider

I visited my first Margaritaville property, its New York City hotel, in early 2021.

a sign outside the hotel noting the rooftop Happy Hour

Margaritaville Resort Times Square. Brittany Chang/Insider

After that first immersion, I knew exactly what to expect from all other Margaritaville concepts.

artwork showing Manhattan as a tropical island

The artwork inside Margaritaville Resort Times Square. Brittany Chang/Insider

Every property I've since stayed at has felt like I was being thrown into Buffett's world of sponge cake and the promise that it's "five o'clock somewhere."

A sign that reads parrot island mini golf besides trees, turf.

Brittany Chang/Insider

These aren't your typical unexciting hospitality concepts.

Tshirts that say Margaritaville

Brittany Chang/Insider

Instead, picture kitschy tropical decor like towering sandals, palm trees, margaritas, and Buffett's lyrics painted on the walls.

A giant statue flip flop that says Margaville at sea

Brittany Chang/Insider

Even the New York City hotel, located in one of the city's busiest neighborhoods, had a shockingly easy going feel.

the exterior of the Margaritaville Resort Times Square building

Margaritaville Resort Times Square. Brittany Chang/Insider

There were reminders of its location with fun Margaritaville twists sprinkled throughout the hotel …

A New Yorker cover with a Margaritaville twist inside the bathroom

A room inside Margaritaville Resort Times Square. Brittany Chang/Insider

… like the restaurant's Statue of Liberty replica holding a margarita glass.

the Statue of Liberty holding a glowing glass

The Statue of Liberty recreation in the Margaritaville Restaurant. Brittany Chang/Insider

And while I wouldn't say it was a true tropical getaway — the car horns and sirens were difficult to ignore — the hotel did have painted blue skies …

empty tables and TVs at the two-floor Margaritaville Restaurant.

The two-floor Margaritaville Restaurant. Brittany Chang/Insider

… nautical decor, Buffett lyrics on the walls …

Got a Caribbean soul I can barely control lyrics on the wall

The two-floor Margaritaville Restaurant. Brittany Chang/Insider

… and tropical plants that could never grow in Central Park …

The first floor of the two-floor Margaritaville Restaurant with almost completely empty tables

The two-floor Margaritaville Restaurant. Brittany Chang/Insider

… creating a cheesy but respectable attempt at replicating a beachside getaway in the heart of Manhattan.

the exterior of the Margaritaville Resort Times Square building

Margaritaville Resort Times Square. Brittany Chang/Insider

"When you walk in here, you're instantly transported to a different state," Kori Yoran, the general manager of Margaritaville Resort Times Square, told Insider in 2021. "If you don't look outside, you're like, 'oh, there's obviously a beach and water.'"

the two-floor Margaritaville Restaurant and its first-floor bar

The two-floor Margaritaville Restaurant. Brittany Chang/Insider

Almost every Margaritaville concept I've since visited has used these same or similar design elements to convey the Buffett "lifestyle."

Lounge chairs surrounding a fire pit in front of a roof with a thatched pattern.

Brittany Chang/Insider

The only property that didn't feel like a pure Margaritaville concept was its then-recently acquired cruise ship.

A TV screen that says Margaritaville at sea

Brittany Chang/Insider

Like I said in my previous review, the lack of immersive decor held the vessel back from feeling like a true Buffett-branded ship.

People walking around a buffet.

Brittany Chang/Insider

Source: Insider

And yet, it was still able to establish a connection to Margaritaville by keeping the name of its onboard amenities consistent with the brand.

Port of Indecision buffet sign with some people walking by.

Brittany Chang/Insider

And they all hearkened back to Buffett, acting like a de facto shrine for his music.

bright decor at the Landshark Bar and Grill

The Landshark Bar and Grill. Brittany Chang/Insider

Fans well-versed in Buffett's discography should know his 1979 song "Fins."

A sign that reads Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Restaurant and Bar

Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville at Universal CityWalk in Los Angeles in 2017. Robert Alexander/Getty Images

On the Margaritaville at Sea Paradise, the cruise ship had a Fins Dining concept.

A wall with a graphic that says fins.

Brittany Chang/Insider

At Camp Margaritaville Auburndale, "fins" came in the form of "Fins Up! Fitness" …

A fitness area with a treadmill, TV, a sign that reads Fins up fitness

Brittany Chang/Insider

… while Camp Margaritaville Pigeon Forge had a Fins-branded bar, restaurant, breakfast buffet, and arcade.

An empty arcade with games.

Brittany Chang/Insider

Both the cruise and Margaritaville Times Square had a "5 o'clock Somewhere" bar or restaurant.

inside the 5 O’Clock Somewhere bar by windows

The 5 O’Clock Somewhere bar. Brittany Chang/Insider

And while Times Square had a "License to Chill" bar …

the outdoor patio of the License to Chill bar

The License to Chill bar. Brittany Chang/Insider

… the Auburndale RV resort had its "License to Chill" pool.

An empty pool with lounge chairs and a water slide. It's a bright blue day with clouds.

A pool at Camp Margaritaville in Auburndale, Florida. Camp Margaritaville RV Resort and Cabana Cabins Auburndale, Central Florida

Both RV resorts had "Barkaritaville" dog parks.

A dog park with a fence, toys and games inside the park.

Brittany Chang/Insider

These are just a handful of amenities that were unabashedly named after Buffett's music. The full list would be too long for me to include here.

Two coffee K-cups.

Brittany Chang/Insider

Sure, naming concepts after lyrics is a straightforward idea and (in theory) easy to execute at a large scale.

An Airstream at Camp Margaritaville Pigeon Forge

Brittany Chang/Insider

But this simple, somewhat arbitrary, and effective naming strategy brings these nostalgic songs to life, giving fans of the hospitality company a sense of consistency and comfort.

Palm trees among a Margaritaville sign.

Brittany Chang/Insider

From the two RV resorts, one cruise, and one hotel I visited, it's evident the company could teach a MasterClass about branding.

A sign that says Here, we salt margaritas not sidewalks under a window.

Brittany Chang/Insider

It does help that Margaritaville is associated with one of the US' most famous musicians.

two signs hanging from a ceiling that read The Original Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Cafe and The Original Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Store

The Margaritaville Cafe and Store in Key West, Florida Chuck Wagner/Shutterstock

But its ability to turn the feeling fans have when they listen to Buffett into real-life concepts at such a large scale is, in my opinion, impressive.

the outdoor patio of the License to Chill bar

The License to Chill bar. Brittany Chang/Insider

Travelers who are loyal to the Margaritaville brand almost always know what they're going to get at its properties: relaxation, blue skies (even if painted), and the promise of booze.

People sitting and standing around an outdoor bar.

Brittany Chang/Insider

And while I don't know any lyrics to any Buffett songs, at least I know what to expect whenever I go to a new Margaritaville property.

People sitting at tables in an open-aired seating area. Others are at the bar at the end of the room.

Brittany Chang/Insider

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Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/margaritaville-branding-cruises-hotels-restaurants-2022-11